A Red Hook developer who tried to rescue a Manhattan railcar diner from the wrecking ball has given up on his plan to move it to Brooklyn — but an 11th-hour purchase of the relic by an Alabama investor ended the eatery’s deep-fried deathwatch.
Mike O’Connell intended to plant the retro Cheyenne Diner in Red Hook on Reed Street across from the Fairway supermarket, a site developed by his father Greg. But his vision for a beer garden and revamped menu were stymied because he did not obtain permits to haul it across the Manhattan Bridge and failed to find a barge operator who could ship it at an affordable cost.
The preservationist Michael Perlman, who does not want to see the dwindling number of vintage, film noir-esque diners go extinct, had helped O’Connell buy the Cheyenne last year for $5,000.
But that seemingly sweetheart deal required O’Connell to find a way to get the restaurant from its longtime home at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 33rd Street in Gaphattan to the promised land in Red Hook.
When he couldn’t do it, O’Connell gave up his $1,000 deposit and withdrew from the project — putting the diner back on the chopping block.
It would have been simply demolished to make room for a new development, but Perlman put the word out that the railcar was again on the market. On Thursday, he announced that Joel Owens of Birmingham, Ala., bought the eatery from owner George Papas and will move the diner down south.